Special agent Gary O’Neil completes his Norwich City mission
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Gary O'Neil carried out his special mission perfectly for Alex Neil after impressing on his first ever Premier League start for the club.
The Norwich City midfielder's nous and guile were coveted traits for Neil in his revised strategy to frustrate Swansea and raid on the counter at Carrow Road.
'He carried out the exact same role for me at Everton in the cup recently because you had (Arouna) Kone drifting in off the flank and making it a two up top and these do the same with (Andre) Ayew,' said Neil. 'Gary did that perfectly against Everton and I felt he was earmarked for this game and what he would give me within the overall team, in comparison to Youssouf (Mulumbu). He was extremely unfortunate not to feature last week at Manchester City but his experience and his use of the ball was really good and he gave us a better balance in there.'
Neil had revealed his hand in the build up with references to Arsenal's recent 3-0 success at the Liberty Stadium, although the City boss suffered a setback ahead of kick-off when Nathan Redmond was ruled out with a thigh injury, which also means he misses England U21 duty over the coming days.
'He was a bit of a blow for us because he would have featured. He would have started but he wasn't quite right,' said Neil. 'On Friday he could feel his thigh and there was a wee bit of concern for us. With Matt Jarvis now out if I risked Nathan and something happened to us that would have been a real concern moving forward.
'We had watched how Arsenal had set-up against them; they conceded possession, dropped off and managed to hurt them on the counter. I thought we could do similar but our use of the ball wasn't good enough in the first half.'